Haunting images hide Mangrove Mountain Ashram child abuse shame
One of the young girls in these pictures, now aged 47, has told the child sex abuse royal commission today how when she left the ashram at the age of 18, she had no idea how to live in society, use cutlery or wear a bra.
She said the children were sent out on sex patrols at night to catch any adults breaking the celibacy rule.
But at the same time, their guru, Swami Akhandananda Saraswati, was having sex with his partner, known as Shishy, and raping some of the teenage girls.
The woman said she joined the ashram at the age of 11 with her nine-year-old sister and their parents who had separated.
“He and Shishy would send some of the children out on what we called f*** patrols,” the woman, 47, told the commission today.
“We would sneak through the bush and down to the riverbanks and report the copulations. The adults didn’t really like the kids much.
“Akhandananda and Shishy fostered that divide between the kids and adults.”
The commission, sitting in Sydney, is investigating the response of the Satyananda Yoga Ashram to complaints of sexual abuse made against their spiritual leader in the mid to late 1980s. The photographs were tendered in evidence to the commission today.
All three the women, who as children joined the ashram and were abused, wept as they told their stories today.
The 47-year-old woman said she was first forced to have sex with the swami when she was 15 while at a yoga retreat in the northern NSW town of Bellingen.
“The first assault I screamed because it really hurt and Akhandananda covered my mouth with his hand,” she said.
“He told me the pain was my Kundalini energy rising. I felt so violated and devastated.”
The commission has heard more evidence about the double standards at the ashram where some parents sold their houses to join what they thought was a “Utopian community” in the 1970s and 80s.
The swami and Shishy had hot showers, champagne and whisky, a hot tub, a TV set and comfy beds while the rest of the ashram had cold water, no other privileges and slept on thin yoga mats. Sex and alcohol were banned.
When Shishy sneaked out of the ashram in the middle of the night in 1985, the woman said the swami was more angry that she had emptied the safe.
The commission has heard that the swami, who is now dead, was charged and convicted of several child sex assault charges in the late 1980s but the convictions were overturned because they were outside the 12-month time laid down by statute to bring the charges.
The woman known as Shishy has been at the commission listening to the evidence from a separate room and is expected to go into the witness box later this week.
The hearing continues.